Donut Machine Week 1: Henry Reed Inc.

March 16, 2009 at 11:02 pm Leave a comment

henryreedHenry Reed Inc., by Keith Robertson (1958, though there were sequels published through the 80s, reprinted by Puffin, 1989)

Henry Reed’s father is a diplomat in Italy who sends his 13-year-old son back to the States to live an American life during the summer. And what an American life it is! The town of Grover’s Corners (a name shared with another fictional archetypical American small town), New Jersey, where Henry stays with his aunt and uncle, is filled with the expected cast. We meet the the affable grocer, the young married couple new to suburbia, the annoying little brothers, the dogs adopted by the entire neighborhood.

Henry is an enchanting, business-minded teen, filled with American moxie and the go-getter spirit, who turns the barn (yes, the barn) into his company’s headquarters and recruits his neighbor Midge as his employee. Henry embodies the American Dream, that mythos of enterprise, all while lightly satirizing that very idea. He thinks that adding “Inc.” to his name automatically makes him a company.

The book, which spawed four sequels, is endearing and self-aware, a combination which keeps it far from the category of trite small-town fiction. Compare this Henry to another Henry of the same general era, the Boxcar Children‘s Henry Alden. Alden is 16 but seems to have no friends beyond his siblings, and his interest in girls extends just far enough to complement his sister Jessie on her perpetually new sweaters. Reed tries to engineer a weather balloon, his friend Midge handles worms and turtles with enthusiasm, and he names his dog Agony. Which Henry would you prefer to spend a summer with?

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Donut Machine Week. What the world was missing

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